The Kitchen is centered on 3 women who's husbands are in the Irish mafia in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of 1970s New York City. When the husbands are arrested and sent to prison, these 3 women start managing parts of the family business at first to put food on the table for themselves and their children. But it doesn't take long for them to usurp the entire (or mostly entire) male-dominated leadership to control the whole operation of gangsters, debt collecting, intimidation, and murder.
This film is based on a DC Vertigo comic book series of the same name created in 2014 by author Ollie Masters and illustrator Ming Doyle. The Kitchen felt like the 1980 feminist comedy 9 to 5 meets the epic mobster drama Goodfellas (1990). Replete with feathered hair, denim jumpsuits, and oversized sunglasses, The Kitchen follows the present, modest, but steady, Hollywood wave of mainstream female-centric films like Ocean's Eight (2018), Miss Bala (2019), Captain Marvel (2019), Little (2019), and the upcoming Hustlers (2019).
It's great to have more mainstream films focused on women. But first-time director Andrea Berloff (screenwriter for Straight Outta Compton, 2015) seemed too timid to dive deeply into the psychology of these characters or the dangerous lives they gradually adopt. So many scenes and moments of dialogue felt too shallow or curtailed. So the whole story felt rushed like it was trying to include too much. Too many characters, too many montages, and too many conflicts resolved with just one conversation. The three leading actresses Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, 2018); Tiffany Haddish (Night School, 2018); and Elisabeth Moss (Us, 2018) give valiant efforts in their serious roles even though none of them have enough space or material to do anything memorable.
It's a shame The Kitchen couldn't take the time to write its screenplay more thoughtfully or explore its characters more patiently. I'm hoping Andrea Berloff's next film will be more tidy and more interesting.